The team were lucky to have found the Nkoveni Female and her two cubs in a thickly vegetated watercourse, and the next day we headed to the spot.
Knowing that there is a chance we might see a glimpse of a cub made our hearts race and chests pound. We sit in silence as the sun rays started to light the riparian thickets, and a rainbow of butterflies flutter around us. Suddenly, Advice Ngwenya (who I track with) spotted an impala kill in a Jackalberry tree barely a few metres next to us. Keeping our noise levels to a minimum, all we could do is look at each other with wide eyes as we knew we were now almost certain to see the three leopards.
As we drove closer to the Jackalberry we saw the canopy shake, and through our binoculars we saw the two cubs moving down the trunk. We switched off the vehicle and waited to let the cubs have space and time to relax again. Waiting silently, as still as the air around us, we could feel the suspense build. Then all of a sudden a head popped up, then two, then a tail and then the two cubs were leaping and tumbling over each other on a fallen tree. We got to see them play with each other right next to us and in the open!
This was a first for me!
We then heard a chuff coming from the mother who was lying in the tall grass below the tree with the kill in it. She lay down next to the fallen over Marula while the cubs practiced their climbing agility and hunting skills above.
Often they would fall off the tree and land in the cushioned grass but as they tried to jump back up they would sometimes misjudge the distance and bounce right back off. I was thrilled to watch the process of them repeating this until they got better and fell less, even leaping from branch to branch. Knowing that they are soon going to be as agile as their mother and able to climb the thinnest branch is amazing, but it will still be a long time before they are able to hoist an adult impala carcass high into a tree.